Celebrate The 51st Anniversary Of The SR-71 Blackbird's First Flight With These Crazy Stats

Illustration for article titled Celebrate The 51st Anniversary Of The SR-71 Blackbirds First Flight With These Crazy Stats

On December 22nd, 1964, the SR-71 Blackbird took to the air for the very first time, rising above Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale with F-104 chase planes in pursuit. The occasion would mark the birth of one of the most amazing and renowned aircraft of all time.

To understand just how exotic the Blackbird family of aircraft were, you need look no farther than its historical stats and metrics.


Some numbers from the Blackbird family of planes:

  • 35 miles per minute or 3,100 feet per second is how fast the SR-71 could fly
  • 170,000 pounds was how much a fully fueled and outfitted Blackbird weighed
  • 59,000 pounds was what one weighed empty
  • 107 feet, 5 inches is the length of a Blackbird
  • 85,000 feet is the official Blackbird ceiling, although it supposedly could fly higher
  • 34,000 pounds of thrust were what each of the SR-71’s J-58 engines put out in afterburner
  • 17,300 total sorties were flown by the Blackbird family of aircraft
  • 3,551 of these sorties were operational missions
  • 11,675 hours were spent over mach three
  • 53,490 total flight hours were amassed on the fleet
  • Just 8 crew members had more than 1,000 hours in the jet
  • Only 86 SR-71 pilots and 86 RSOs flew operational missions
  • 385 total persons have reached mach three in a Blackbird, including 105 VIPs
  • 478 total people have flown in Blackbirds
  • 32 SR-71s were built
  • 50 total Blackbird family aircraft were built (A-12, YF-12, SR-71, M-21)
  • 1 hour and 4 minutes was how fast the SR-71 could go from Los Angeles to Washington D.C.
  • $33,000,000 was the cost to build a single SR-71 Blackbird
  • 900 degrees Fahrenheit was how hot the SR-71’s skin got during high-speed runs
  • 3,200 degrees Fahrenheit was the temperature of the J-58 engine’s exhaust at maximum output
  • Over 1,000 missiles were launched at the SR-71 without any losses
  • 5 pounds is how much weight a SR-71 crew member could lose in their pressure suit during a four our mission
  • 85 percent of the Blackbird’s skin is titanium, the other 15 percent is carbon composites
  • 2.5G was the SR-71’s structural stress limit
  • About 16 “starts” per engine worth of Triethylborane (TEB) were carried on an SR-71 mission as the Blackbird’s engines could not be restarted in the air without the TEB accelerant.
  • 140 degrees Fahrenheit was the flash-point of the SR-71’s JP-7 fuel. Normal jet fuel has a flash-point of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • 56 KC-135s were converted to KC-135Q/Ts that could refuel Blackbirds
  • 20 of the 50 Blackbird aircraft family were written off in crashes and mishaps
  • 6 inches is how much longer the SR-71 would grow at high speed due to heat expansion
  • Zero was the number of computers used to design the Blackbird

Here’s to the “Sled” at 51 one years of age!

Sources: SR71Websmaster, SR-71.org, SR-71: The Complete Illustrated History of the Blackbird, HABU.org

Contact the author at Tyler@jalopnik.com.

Illustration for article titled Celebrate The 51st Anniversary Of The SR-71 Blackbirds First Flight With These Crazy Stats

Photos: Top shot via NASA, Bottom shot via Lockheed

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2.5Gs? That doesn’t seem right at all, as that isn’t really all that much. I would think that at peak acceleration the jet and crew would experience more than that, though it’s certainly very possible that I’m wrong.